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UK government relaunches Trustmark
TrustMark, the Government-backed quality mark for reputable tradesmen, was relaunched yesterday by Consumer Minister Jenny Willott with new improved standards of consumer protection under a renewed master licence from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
In one of the first major announcements from the joint industry and Government industrial strategy for construction, 'Construction 2025', Peter Hansford, the Government's Chief Construction Adviser, also emphasised the Government's strong commitment to TrustMark and called upon more firms to get behind the scheme which is central to boosting the reputation of tradesmen as well as consumer confidence in the domestic repairs, maintenance and improvement market.
TrustMark's relaunch brought together more than 100 invited guests from industry and consumer protection groups at a reception in Westminster. The Consumer Minister announced the new core criteria - the Government-endorsed standards at the heart of the TrustMark scheme - and urged the whole industry to meet these new standards, which cover customer service, good trading practices and technical competence.
Some of the key changes to the TrustMark core criteria include:
* Firmer standards: The old requirements in the licence and core criteria spoke about scheme operators using 'best endeavours' to meet certain standards, and gave 'examples' of checks and activities that they might use to demonstrate compliance. Now the core criteria talks about scheme operators' requirements ("scheme operators must...").
* More specific standards: For example, whereas before, scheme operators had to have a general commitment to raising standards, now they need to show how they are raising standards to address identified areas of consumer detriment and other trade-specific issues.
* More vetting of tradesmen, including specific checks that must be done on firms upon entry to the scheme, but also at renewal stage or on an ongoing basis.
* More proactive use of complaints data by scheme operators, more reporting of that data, more transparency in the complaints process.
* Changes to protect the brand and reduce misuse of the TrustMark logo.
* A new requirement for scheme operators to develop ways to measure the effectiveness of their code of practice and how it reduces consumer detriment, and to keep it regularly reviewed in the light of changing customer expectations in their sector.
Existing scheme operators will have 12 months to adapt to the new core criteria, and TrustMark will give them every assistance. All new scheme operators that apply after the relaunch will be assessed against the new core criteria from day one. The core criteria will also be reviewed and updated every year from now on to maintain the drive for higher standards.
Liz Male, Chairman of TrustMark, said:
"The relaunch of TrustMark is a clear sign to industry and any reputable firm in the domestic sector that Government wants to give more recognition. TrustMark provides the best tradesmen with the opportunity to thrive through reputational benefits, increased business opportunities and quality referrals from the TrustMark website and other signposting channels.
"The new core criteria also reflects that so much has changed since 2005 - including new laws and much higher expectations and understanding of 'what good looks like' by industry, consumers, Government and all stakeholders. We can now show that TrustMark is truly fit for purpose in a modern market. It captures best practice, gives trades a much clearer understanding of what's expected, and aims to strike the right balance between 'light touch co-regulation' and good consumer protection.
"Most of all, the 'new TrustMark' aims to increase confidence among consumers, which is at the heart of a successful and economically strong market.
"The Board and staff thank all the excellent organisations that have given us so much support over the years, and today celebrates the strong vote of commitment to TrustMark from Government, industry and consumer groups."
Commenting on the launch of the new TrustMark standards, Consumer Minister Jenny Willott, said:
"TrustMark gives consumers more confidence in their tradesman when spending their hard earned cash. Every trader who has signed up to the scheme has been independently assessed for their competence.
"We want to put rogue or unscrupulous tradesmen out of business. One of the best ways to do this is to pick out the best businesses, so people know where to turn first for their home improvements, maintenance and repairs.
"I would encourage all legitimate and honest tradesmen to sign up to this scheme."
Peter Hansford, Government's Chief Construction Adviser, added:
"TrustMark is pivotal to improving the reputation of the UK construction industry which is why we committed to relaunch it as part of our industrial strategy. Improving the image of the industry with the public is particularly important if we're to attract the next generation into exciting careers in construction.
"I know the Government is committed to supporting TrustMark, expanding the scheme to include a greater proportion of the industry, and promoting the new core criteria standards and the industry and consumer groups that support them. It wants to see more trade bodies, industry groups and any organisation with a panel of approved contractors joining TrustMark this year so that it can grow to cover much more of the sector."
The relaunch also marks the start of a sustained consumer marketing campaign for TrustMark to raise consumer awareness of the benefits of using TrustMark-registered firms through major PR and social media campaigns. This includes a communications and video programme, which has been developed around the theme of 'tools to talk' and a new weekly consumer advice blog written for TrustMark by Steve Playle, a well known and respected trading standards expert, is part of the programme.
4th April 2014